Climate emergency motion rejected for second timeConservative councillors say declaring climate emergency is 'waste of time'
A fresh call for Barnet Council to declare a 'climate emergency' was voted down by Conservative councillors who claimed the borough was already pursuing green policies.
The decision means Barnet is set to remain one of only four councils in London not to have declared a climate emergency – a formal recognition of the threat posed by climate change.
More than 200 councils across the UK – including many Conservative-run boroughs – and the UK Parliament are among the bodies to have made the declaration.
Barnet Council failed to pass a motion to declare a climate emergency in July 2019, with Labour and Conservative councillors subsequently blaming each other for the outcome.
Labour’s Geof Cooke called on councillors to recommend that full council declare a climate emergency during a member’s item at a meeting of the environment committee last week.
He said: “There is increasing urgency. Understandably, there has been a focus on responding to the pandemic – but climate change has not gone away, and the window of opportunity to act effectively is closing.
“We need to act locally, and we should not wait for a change of administration next year to change the policy or for a leisurely review of an overall strategy before acting.”
Cllr Cooke also proposed setting up a citizens’ climate emergency panel to support the development of climate change and sustainability action plans.
But Tory councillor Peter Zinkin said there was a “complete disconnect between declaring a climate emergency and actually doing things about climate change” – although he acknowledged climate change was a “very serious issue”.
He added: “When you look at what the council is doing, there are many policies that relate to climate change, and that will be pulled together in the sustainability policy that is being prepared.
“The decision to declare a climate emergency is of itself not contributing anything at all to improving the situation.”
Labour member Alan Schneiderman backed his colleague’s motion. “It is not about tokenism or spin,” he said. “Declaring a climate emergency is simply a demonstration of the urgency of the situation.”
But Conservative Elliot Simberg disagreed. “Declaring a climate emergency, being just words without substance, is a complete waste of time,” he said, adding that the council’s policies already “address the climate”.
When it was put to a vote, five Conservative councillors voted against the call for full council to declare a climate emergency, with the four Labour councillors in favour. Tory Laithe Jajeh abstained.
The call to set up a climate emergency panel was also voted down by Conservative members of the committee. But all committee members backed a call to ask the constitution committee to consider including an assessment of the environmental impact of policies in the council’s reports.